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How to get rid of suckers on lilacs & crabapples


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#1 Guest_<jeepers1117>_*

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Posted 27 June 2004 - 07:45 PM

How can I discourage suckers from growing around my lilacs, flowering crab and apple trees? The crab and apple trees are surrounded by lawn and I have been told not to fertilize near them. They still shoot up suckers! The lilacs are mature, are never fertilized and seldom watered other than rainfall. Would landscape fabric placed around the base of the trees and covered with mulch help? I would appreciate any help.
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#2 Guest_Karen Auch_*

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Posted 27 June 2004 - 10:22 PM

Jeepers: Suckers certainly can be a problem in the landscape. There are many varieties of apple and crabapple tree that are prone to suckers. Landscape fabric and mulch will not take care of the problem, unfortunately. Prune the suckers as close to the ground as possible. The best method of control is to be sure to plant varieties that are known to produce minimal suckering. `Prairifire' is one such crabapple that also has excellent resistance to Scab, Fire Blight, Rust, Mildew and Japanese Beetle. Another that is very good in all areas just listed is 'Dolgo'. Other information on apples and crabapples can be found in Michael Dirr's book, "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants or in J. L. Fiala's book "Flowering Crabapples, The Genus Malus".

Now to the topic of Lilac. Are you trying to keep your lilac shrub pruned to resemble a tree, or do you prefer it to be shrub-like in appearance (multi-stemmed)? Routine maintenance on Lilac shrubs would be to prune out some of the older wood each year by taking a portion of the thickest branches to the ground. This allows the newer, more vigorous stems to be invigorated. It also allows the plant to be maintained at a good size, provides air circulation for the plant and promotes flowering.

Hope this helps.
Auch, Instructor, The Michigan School of Gardening
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#3 Guest_<jeepers1117>_*

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 08:29 PM

The lilacs definitely fall into the "looks like a shrub" category. I have one "common" purple lilac, and 3 Persian lilacs, all about 25 years old. The problem with the suckers is mainly with the common one. We do trim old wood out, and have no problem with blooming. However, We are getting suckers that shoot up anywhere from 2-6 feet away from the main shrub. At one time, there was a barrier of plastic under the shrubs. A couple of years ago, I removed the plastic so I could plant under them. I am afraid the roots may have grown too close to the surface because of the plastic and that may be the cause of the problem, but is there a way to stop it?
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#4 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 10:28 AM

Lilacs sucker. Welive with it.

Or:

Do you trim out the oldest wood, on the lilac? The very big stems? Sometimes as lilacs, especially common lilacs, get older and their trunks become larger in diameter they become afflicted and weakend by borers, and they sucker even more than the norm. The defense against this is to remove wood that's more than 7 or 8 years old on a regular basis, thus the guideline "Remove 20-25% of the wood each year, focusing on the oldest."

It's doubtful that the plastic caused increased suckering.

, Senior Instructor, The Michigan School of Gardening
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#5 Guest_<jeepers1117>_*

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Posted 29 June 2004 - 11:04 PM

Thanks . You may have hit the nail on the head. Although we do trim out old wood each year, I am sure we are not getting all of the oldest wood out. Will try getting more of it out and will look for borer damage. In the meanwhile, we are digging up the suckers and giving them to our kids. Someday maybe they will have a lovely hedgerow on their property!
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#6 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 01:28 PM

What a great perspective, to be making a good thing out of a bad, with heritage plants going to your kids and the belief that they'll one day be a grand hedge there!

Oh, wait. Forgot something earlier. About the suckers on crabapples. I don't cut them at ground level. As soon in the life of the plant as it starts suckering, I start digging. I pull those suckers right off of the root or trunk-below-ground (wherever they originate), rather than leave the base of the sucker intact to afterward yield two or three sprouts in place of the one I cut. Often when I do this I find that the tree is suckering terribly because it is planted too deep, too. And then I do what I can to remove soil around the base. At a Master Gardener lab two summers ago, we de-suckered a crab and it was an eye-opener for some people, on all of these counts. This digging doesn't hurt the tree, you're only digging with a trowel to uncover the source of the sucker, not chopping away with a spade.

Macuovich, Senior Instructor, The Michigan School of Gardening
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#7 Guest_<jeepers1117>_*

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 03:23 PM

Many thanks for the help with the crabapples. We usually just cut the suckers at ground level or slightly below. Will definitely try going a bit deeper!

We are building a memory garden this year to honor my father-in-law and my mother, both of whom gave us many plant starts. The starts have grown so much that we have passed quite a few to our children, so some of the plants are going three generations. OUr local high school has a volunteer service hour requirement, and I have given them many starts to plant along the roadsides. It is a real kick to be driving down I-94 and see my mother's iris' in bloom in the spring!
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#8 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 05:23 PM

So you're one of those peopel I think about when I see a highway or very-busy-road easement that's been planted by the person living on that property. I smile when I see the flowers and think "Thank you for caring to share with us!"


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#9 Guest_Dan K_*

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Posted 15 July 2004 - 07:41 AM

Just to balance out this wonderful discussion, there is a chemical alternative- (HA!- Better living through Chemistry!) There is a spray on the market called "sucker stop" that is an inhibitor for these species. It comes in little quart bottles, and you just spray the base of the tree or the little sprouts when they're young (or so the back of the bottle told me). I've never used the stuff myself, as I prefer mechanical means by pruning when my hand saw is sharp.
, City of Detroit Forester
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#10 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 03:52 PM

I'd like to hear some first hand report on Sucker Stop. I suspect it will work best if the BASE of the sucker can be sprayed. But it's only a suspicion.

So if anyone tries it will you plese report back?


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